Friday, September 30, 2011

Getting My Mind Out of the Gutter

If you've been following my whining of late, you might recall that I had my roof replaced a few weeks ago because of damage from our big hail storm back in July.

The company I hired had the old roof ripped off and the new one on in 2 days, which was great. But do you notice anything missing from this picture?

Yup, no gutters. They ripped the old ones off, but didn't quite get around to putting the new ones up.

So.... when they called to ask how the work went, I told them that it was great, but that there were no gutters. "Oh - they'll come by tomorrow to do that part" they assured me.

Yes, well, tomorrow came and went and alas, no gutters.

So when they sent a supervisor out to do clean up and inspect everything. I asked him when the gutters were going up.

"Oh - they should be put up in the next day or two."

Yes, well.... the week went by and still no gutters.

Soon a bill appeared in the mail.

It said "Due upon completion of work" so I promptly put in a folder and ignored it. You never Never NEVER pay a contractor until the work is done.

And yet... no gutters.

So Monday I get a call from the company wondering where their money was.

I politely informed them that I still had no gutters and would not be paying them until the work was completed. The woman apologized profusely and assured me that the gutters would be put up the following day.

Yes, well... you guessed it. Tuesday came and went and STILL no gutters.

By this point I was starting to get a bit frustrated. I mean seriously, this was getting gutterly ridiculous! I figured I was gonna have to call them up and start spouting off.  I mean really, what kind of soffitstry is this anyhow? At least I'd been able to channel my frustrations productively by painting the trim while the gutters were off.

OK... sorry for the puns, but a girl's gotta do SOMETHING to maintain sanity in crazy situation.

Anyhow, the fellow FINALLY showed up this afternoon and I now have beautiful new gutters.

And it's a good thing because this whole thing was really starting to go down the drain!

Seriously though... I realize that I haven't slept real well in weeks because I've been waiting to be awakened at the crack of dawn by workers banging on my door. I know it's sort of stupid, but it's just hard to sleep in when you feel like you might have to leap up and answer the door at any moment... and we all know I am NOT a morning person!

Anyhow, all I can say is that I'm really REALLY looking forward to getting my mind out of this particular gutter!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Goddess of Destruction

I suppose it's no secret that I've been a tad bit depressed lately. With the hail storm wiping out my garden, the home & car repairs, the election politics & economic woes, the plethora of natural disasters - and the steadfast unwillingness of certain public figures to acknowledge climate change as a factor therein, and just the general all-purpose horse ka-ka that seems to be so prevalent these days, it's hard not to feel that the world is crumbling around you.
So last night I decided that I needed to just lay on the couch and watch some mindless entertainment. I chose a movie that Netflix recommended called "Outsourced."

It was basically just a cute romantic comedy about a fellow whose call center job gets outsourced to India, and he has to go there to train his successor. In general this movie was nothing to write home about, but there was one little part that stuck with me. Throughout the film, our protagonist is disturbed by a picture of the Goddess Kali holding a severed head.

At one point he notices the same figurine in a car and remarks, "I'm pretty sure there's a painting of her in my room. It feels like she's following me around."

His Indian love interest explains, "That's Kali, the goddess of destruction."

Perplexed, our protagonist asks, "Why would you want the goddess of destruction in your car?"

"Sometimes destruction is a good thing." she explains,  "She ends one cycle so a new one can begin."

Now, I don't generally go looking for words of wisdom in mindless entertainment, but wow. Somehow, those where the exact words that I needed to hear right about now. It was like suddenly my whole essence heaved a sigh of relief.

Maybe I've just been looking at things all wrong. I mean, I still think that I've been experiencing a general feeling of upheaval lately, but perhaps that's not such a bad thing.

In the practical sense... the fact that my car totally died finally got me to take it to the shop where I finally fixed the doo-hickeys that hold the hatchback up, and the cracked windshield, and the heater... and in truth, it's REALLY nice to have those things fixed.

Likewise with the house. The hailstorm was a major pain in the rear, but it did jolt me out of complacency and finally get me to paint the house trim, which has been a task that was LONG overdue. Plus I get a new roof essentially for free, and the roofers installed a bunch of new attic vents which will keep the house much cooler in the summer and save on electricity.

And in political terms, maybe all of this craziness isn't such a bad thing. I mean if the GOP really wants to stake their future on tax breaks for millionaires, perhaps that's a position we should not try to argue them out of. I mean in the long run, how do you think that will play?

And even when it comes to more dire stuff like climate change, and human overpopulation. Maybe it's not such a terrible thing that we seem to be headed straight toward a cliff.

I'm not saying that I relish the idea of large scale human suffering, but maybe this is just part of a cycle that needs to play itself out before something else can be born. And I don't mean something else as in humans go extinct and some other creature gets a chance to flourish, I mean that maybe, eventually, all of this will end up making a better world for future generations.

Regardless of what happens, whatever human society (or lack of society) that manages to exist a hundred years from now is gonna be very different from what we've got now. But what if all of this craziness (and what certainly feels like destruction) actually results in a life where people don't have to sit in traffic jams, or play stupid office politics, or spend their lives serving some corporate overlord, or wear pantyhose, or get by on 5 hours of sleep a night, or eat processed food, or live their lives in a toxic soup of chemicals.

Maybe all of this is just like the cycle of the seasons. Maybe we're just experiencing the first frosts of societal autumn.

Maybe Kali destroying things so that something new and better can be created.

I dunno... perhaps I'm just frantically looking for some rose colored glasses to make myself feel better.

Even if I am right, I'm sure the winter will be no picnic. But winter has its own beauty...

and it inevitably leads to spring.

So maybe I should just try to enjoy the autumn.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

My Beautiful Barrio

I often joke that I live in the barrio. My neighborhood is one of the poorest in Denver, and as an English speaking white girl, I'm definitely a minority here. Now I realize that the word conjures up images of a terrible third world slum.

And while we do have our fair share of public housing, trailer parks, graffiti, drunks and gangs, on the whole, when I use the word, I'm referring to it's simple Spanish meaning, which is neighborhood. (It's Barrios Bajos that means slum, or bad neighborhood.)

I also often refer to my neighborhood as the land of cracker box houses, and you can probably guess where that analogy came from. And yes - this is actual Google Earth image of my neighborhood with my very own little house pictured near the upper left hand corner...

While my little barrio may be a tad bit lacking in terms of architectural beauty, it makes up for it many times over in a plethora of other ways.

So... here are just a few of the things I love about my neighborhood.

I get to have a HUGE house with a giant yard that has plentiful gardening space. Well, I suppose it's still a tiny house by suburban standards, but it's huge for me... 900 square feet with a full basement, plus a detached 2.5 car garage which is bigger than the entire apartment that I lived in before I bought the house. All this, and my mortgage costs less than it would cost to rent a studio apartment. OK - the fact that I bought 15 years ago helps, but still...
Within easy walking distance I've got 2 grocery stores, a post office, a library, a park, several laundromats, a recreation center with a full gym and a pool, three liquor stores, a handful of clothing boutiques, half a dozen restaurants, a veterinarian, and several drug stores. If I hop on my bike, the list grows exponentially. I really feel like everything I need is literally at my fingertips.

Plus... If I want to go somewhere I can be downtown in 15 minutes if I drive... 30 minutes if I take the bus and/or light rail, or 40 minutes on the bike path. Or I can head west and in the same amount of time I can be in the open space at the foothills of the great Rocky Mountains. If I want a real adventure, just drive a few minutes further and I can be in the wilderness.

But aside from the wonderful location, what I love about my neighborhood is that it's an actual real neighborhood. You know what I mean... the kids all still walk to school, and play in the streets, and people know each other. Neighbors lend a helping hand with projects and tools, etc. and when I've got a bumper crop of tomatoes or zucchini, I can always find someone over one fence or another who is eager for the surplus.

Plus, if you go for a walk on a nice day, the air is filled with mariachi music, which I totally LOVE.

And guess what. As if it wasn't cool enough already, we're getting a very important visitor next week. Yup, President Obama himself is gonna speak outside of our local high school! How totally cool is that!

OK... I know I've been pretty darned cynical about politics lately, but I have to say that I still think it's pretty cool to have the President speaking just a few blocks from my house! Of course, I'm sure that in reality it will turn out to be a bit of a pain in the butt what with the traffic and the security, but still... he is the President after all.

Now I know that there are a lot of disgruntled liberals out there, and while I am certainly disgruntled with politics, my issues are not really with Obama (sorry to disappoint you.) I was actually gonna make this a post about all the reasons that if the left had any political sense at all they'd be doing everything they could to support Obama instead of tearing him down, but I didn't think I could handle yet another depressing political topic.

So for the moment, I'm just gonna sit back and enjoy the fact that my beautiful little barrio is having it's moment in the national spotlight.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tax, Lies and Idiot-Gate

OK... I made up the Idiot-Gate thing to get the whole "Sex, Lies and Videotape" analogy... but it really seems to me like the idiocy on display by various Republicans should be considered a major scandal.

Sooo, have you seen the inane comments made by Republican Congressman John Fleming of Louisiana? If not, I offer this for your viewing pleasure.

Multi-Millionaire Lawmaker: I Can't Afford a Tax Hike

Where to begin?

First of all, let's start with this statement:

"The income flows to my personal tax return, and whatever is leftover after taxes are paid, I feed my family on the one hand, and on the other hand I reinvest in my business."

Ummmm.... WRONG!

I'm not sure if this man is just stupid or if he's counting on the fact that most Americans don't own their own businesses, and therefore don't understand how taxes for business owners are calculated. But here's the deal. If you invest money back into your business, it's called... let's see... what's the term... oh yeah... a BUSINESS EXPENSE!!! And business expenses are subtracted BEFORE taxes, so that means, that any money invested in your business is, let's see, what's the term... oh yeah... TAX FREE!!

So, my dear Mr. Fleming, the only money you pay ANY taxes on at all, is the NET income... you know... the profit... the AFTER business expenses part. 

It just totally kills me that both the media and the Democrats continue to let the Republicans get away with making this completely spurious argument that somehow taxing the personal (IE after business expenses) income of small business owners discourages them from re-investing in their businesses. Is the whole world too stupid to know that only net income is taxed... or to even know the difference between net and gross income? 

Let me spell it out for you Mr. Fleming...


If anything, upping the amount that small business owners pay in taxes actually encourages them to reinvest money in their businesses because it allows them to pay... get this... LESS TAXES!! 

But I digress. 

Let's take this next statement by Mr. Fleming.

"My net income... is more like $600,000"

Did you get that? So this guy is screaming and crying about how he can't afford to pay more taxes under the "Buffet Plan" - which would increase taxes on people making more than a million dollars. But HE ONLY MAKES $600,000!!! So he wouldn't even be affected one way or another by this new tax plan!!

But does our intrepid MSNBC interviewer bother to point this out?

Photo by Laughing Squid on Flickr
Good God... it just makes me want to scream.

Of course, I realize that when you talk about taxes, people aren't really responding based on logic or facts, they're responding on pure emotion. No matter how much or little money you make, on some level it just doesn't seem "fair" that you have to give a portion back to the society.

But no matter how you feel about taxes, government spending, redistribution of wealth and the like (and I assure you, I have PLENTY of opinions on the topic) the truth is that this isn't about ethics, its about economics.

I mean, when you have an enormous disparity between rich and poor, as we do in this country, what ends up happening is that all the money collects in the hands of a small group of uber-wealthy. These folks don't spend the money because... really... there's only so much money that a person can spend. So you end up with a huge chunk of the society's wealth "trapped" and not circulating in the economy. 

This is bad for EVERYBODY, because if the poor and the (quickly vanishing) middle class don't have any money to spend, they can't purchase any goods or services. And if people can't buy anything, then all of these precious businesses that we're so concerned about HAVE NO CUSTOMERS!

If, on the other hand, you take some of that money and let the government invest it in the country... you know... things like bridges that won't fall down. Not only does it create jobs and get money circulating, it creates infrastructure that benefits everybody... including the businesses! 

Just think for one moment what it would be like if we had single payer health care in this country. Businesses would no longer be responsible for paying health costs for their employees. That means that it would be significantly more attractive for corporations to create jobs here in the US, not the mention the burden it would relieve from our precious "small business owners."

OK... single payer health care is a pipe dream, but I'm not just making this stuff up about taxes. According to New York University economics professor Edward Wolff:
"We had very high top marginal tax rates in the '50s and '60s, upwards of 90 percent, and we had our highest growth of the post-war period, perhaps the whole century."

But alas... I fear I am only spitting into the wind...

The rich and powerful will say and do anything to keep their free ride.

I wish I had some fabulous uplifting conclusion to this little tale... some way we could all "pull together" and "make things better" but I'm afraid I'm just not very optimistic these days.